Background/Aims: The Cancer Research Network (CRN) Scholars Program was launched during the third cycle of the collaborative grant to increase research capacity within the CRN. Specific goals of the program include: (1) becoming a principal investigator on a successful investigator-initiated grant within the CRN, and (2) primary author on peer-reviewed, published manuscripts reporting original research from the CRN. In addition to developing research expertise utilizing CRN resources, the CRN Scholars Program fosters development of skills difficult to acquire in other training environments, including the initiation of collaborative research proposals involving stakeholders in integrated health care delivery systems, use and analysis of complex clinical, claims and pharmaceutical data, and strategic grant proposal development tailored to the unique resources and opportunities afforded by the CRN.
Methods: The 26-month program facilitates individualized mentorship, creation of research advisory teams for each scholar comprised of investigators from their home institution and collaborating CRN sites. Monthly one-on-one mentoring meetings and quarterly mentoring team meetings enable scholars to gain familiarity with the CRN landscape to develop novel, investigator-initiated projects with CRN collaborators. Additionally, scholars attend semiannual in-person meetings and conduct bimonthly group conference calls examining academic career development, writing and review of research proposals, analytic design, discussing available funding opportunities, execution of multisite research studies, and media training.
Results: The first two Scholars Program cohorts included CRN-affiliated junior investigators, while the current iteration of the Scholars Program (CRN4) has shifted focus to include external junior investigator researchers pursuing training in the conduct of multisite, multidisciplinary population-based studies. Members of the CRN4 cohort have successfully received career development awards and independent grants to support their CRN work, published several first-authored manuscripts and received awards honoring their research.
Discussion: The CRN Scholars Program is working to expand the scope and scale of investigators conducting cancer research within integrated health care delivery systems, a goal of significant importance given nationwide shifts in policy and practice in the organization of medical care and emphasis on population health. Accordingly, the CRN Scholars Program is well positioned to produce future leaders in cancer research and, ultimately, improve the lives of patients.